Imagine you’re on a first date with someone you just recently met. You take them to a nice restaurant, order your food, and then ask them to marry you.
What kind of reaction would you expect to get?
They’d probably be shocked and a little frightened. If they didn’t stand up and leave the restaurant at that moment, you almost certainly wouldn’t get a second date.
Why? Because there’s an order to relationships.
Even if you were both looking for someone to marry and each thought “This could be the one,” it’s still way too fast to jump into a big commitment. Skipping too many steps makes your partner nervous.
It’s the same with your customers. They expect an order to their relationship with you. If you serve them the wrong messaging, content, and offers at the wrong time, you’ll scare them off or make them think, “This isn’t for me.”
There is an expected order to eCommerce lifecycle marketing emails. This is why sending the same emails to everyone on your list could actually hurt your growth. If people receive emails that aren’t applicable to them, they’ll start to back away from your brand.
Broadcast-style email blasts are a thing of the past. If you send blasts to your entire list, you risk alienating your subscribers. Every time they get an email that doesn’t apply to them, you’ll push them a little closer to unsubscribing.Email blasts are a thing of the past. If you send blasts to your entire list, you risk alienating your subscribers. Click To Tweet
Instead, a majority of your emails should be segmented for different customer groups. There are lots of ways to segment your email campaigns, but the best way to send personalized content is to organize your emails according to the customer lifecycle.
Why the customer lifecycle is important
The eCommerce customer lifecycle describes the journey your customers take before, during, and after they complete a transaction. It’s a metaphor for the relationship your customers have with your brand.
At any given time, each customer is at some point in the lifecycle. They generally move forward through the lifecycle, but it’s possible to move backward.
Understanding the customer lifecycle helps you craft messaging, images, and offers to have a maximum impact on your conversions. By mapping your customer lifecycle, you can create email campaigns that target your customers in their specific part of the journey.Understanding the customer lifecycle helps you maximize your impact on your conversions. Click To Tweet
You can use lifecycle marketing to influence all of your marketing campaigns (like your blog posts, Facebook ads, and even your product curation/creation), but it’s especially useful for email marketing.
Why should you base your emails on the customer lifecycle?
- They produce better conversions, because the email content targets the customer well.
- Even if your customers don’t convert, they still find the emails valuable.
- Emails are more likely to be relevant to the customer that receives them, so customers never feels like you wasted their time.
So how do you create lifecycle email content? Your first step to divide your customers into stages.
The different stages of the customer lifecycle
You can define your customer lifecycle anyway you like. When eCommerce stores start to really consider how their customers interact with their brand, they often find unique events or milestones that define their customers’ journey.You can define your customer lifecycle anyway you like, but most brands use five stages. Click To Tweet
But most brands use a fairly standard customer lifecycle that includes these five stages:
These are people who aren’t customers yet, but they definitely could be. They fit your eCommerce buyer personas and they’ve taken some action to engage with your brand.
What kind of actions count as engagement?
- Visiting your website
- Clicking a Facebook ad
- Liking a social media post
- Subscribing to your newsletter
- Creating an account on your website
Your job: Push them to make that first purchase, even if you have to incentivize them with a discount. Once they make that first purchase, getting them to make subsequent purchases becomes a lot easier.
Sending lifecycle email content to prospects is tough because you usually don’t have their email address (you gain most of your email addresses through transactions). Sometimes prospects subscribe somewhere on your website or give their address through a giveaway, promotion, or partnership with another brand.
If you have their email address, send content that introduces them to your brand — sending cart abandonment emails is a great way to do this, especially within your first email in a series. Start the process of building a relationship by giving the prospect some value, like free content or a coupon.
You should also prompt them to check out your best selling products. (Ideally, you’d want to customize your product offerings to their preferences, but you probably don’t have that information at this point.)
2. Active customers
These are people who have already made at least one purchase, but it also applies to people who make lots of purchases.
Depending on your customer, you might split this group into several groups that better depict their buying habits. For instance, you might consider active customers who buy yearly gifts a different segment than active customers who buy weekly consumable products.
Your job: Keep these customers engaged so they continue to buy.
The best way to keep customers engaged is by serving regular, personalized content that meets their needs and preferences. It’s also important to constantly test your open and click-through rates to maximize your campaign’s performance.
Furthermore, you’ll want to send these customers transactional emails (order confirmations, follow-up emails, product review requests, cart abandonment emails, etc.) and replenishment campaigns (reminders to re-purchase consumable items).
Here’s an example of how Huckberry stays in touch with their active customers:
3. At-risk customers
These are customers who were active at one point, but they missed the time they were supposed to make another purchase.
How you determine when a customer moves from “active” to “at-risk” depends on your products and customers. For example, if you sell one type of aftermarket car part, a customer may only buy once during their car’s life – every five or seven years.
But if you sell a big line of consumable products (makeup, for instance), you might consider someone at-risk if they fail to make a purchase every 30 days.
Your job: Turn at-risk customers back into active customers before they lapse.
Reengaging cold email subscribers is tough unless you know specifically why they lost interest. Plus, the only way to contact them is through email, which doesn’t help if they’ve learned to ignore your emails.
There are a few ways to reengage your email subscribers, like retargeting them on another platform or offering tripwire deals or coupons. You’ll have to find the best method for your customers.
Here’s an example how Sephora tried to win back some of their inactive customers:
4. Lapsed customers
These are people have gone long past the point they were supposed to make a purchase and don’t respond to your outreach (emails, retargeting ads, etc.).
Your job: Reactivate these customers into active customers.
Similar to re-engaging at-risk customers, you have to run win-back campaigns to turn lapsed customers into active customers.
Unfortunately, this is even harder than re-acquiring at-risk customers because lapsed customers are further “away” from your brand. It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult. Trying to win back old customers will make you understand why it’s so important to keep your current ones!
These are people who not only buy products regularly, they actively promote your brand for you. They might post on social media, take advantage of your referral marketing feature, or simply share your name via word-of-mouth.
Your job: Nurture and reward these customers so they stay engaged and continue to promote for you.
Keep your advocates in the loop by sending them special content that acknowledges their contributions. Instead of your typical branded HTML designs, you might send them something simpler and more personal that appears to come directly from a human.
It also helps to add some exclusivity copy to your emails to drive home the point that your recipients aren’t like regular customers.
Here’s an example of Aerosoles rewards their VIP club:
The right message always wins
Just like asking someone you just met to marry you will scare them off, sending email blasts to your entire list will compel your subscribers to unsubscribe. Plus, it’s just not effective.
By mapping your customer lifecycle and creating emails for customers in each stage, you’ll improve your conversion rates and build a stronger brand following.